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SA's best ref calls it a day

NEWS: South Africa’s top referee Jaco Peyper has decided to hang up his whistle.

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Mark Alexander, the President of the South African Rugby Union, hailed the Bloemfontein-based match official as one of the best ambassadors for the country in the last decade.

The 43-year-old Peyper refereed the last of his 67 Tests – third most by a South African match official behind Jonathan Kaplan and Craig Joubert – at last year’s World Cup.

He was involved in three World Cup tournaments and handled numerous playoffs at United Rugby Championship, Super Rugby, Champions Cup and Currie Cup level.

Peyper, who is the sixth most-capped Test referee in history, was in charge in nine finals – five Currie Cups, three Super Rugby and one Champions Cup – as well as two World Cup quarterfinals.

He also refereed numerous matches in the Six Nations and Rugby Championship, as well as one Test between the All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions in 2017.

Away from the field of play, Peyper has played a pivotal role in mentoring and championing the next generation of match officials.

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Reflecting this passion, Peyper was elected to the inaugural management committee of the International Rugby Match Officials body in 2023, serving the interests of the top male and female officials on the international stage.

His work with broadcasters, helping to deepen understanding of refereeing and laws, has also been a prominent feature of his time as an international referee.

Alexander praised Peyper for his career, during which he was named Referee of the Year on four occasions.

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“Apart from progressing to be one of the best referees in the world during his 17-year first-class career, Jaco has also been a great ambassador for South Africa and a role model for aspiring young match officials.

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“His cool, calm and collected conduct has been a standout characteristic throughout his career, while Jaco was also clear and consistent in the way in which he has applied the Laws, allowing players to them to express themselves on the field.

“We’ve had some outstanding referees since the game turned professional and Jaco can be regarded as one of the best. We understand his reasoning for wanting to retire as referee and although it’s a sad day, we look back at it with fond memories. We would like to wish him and his family the very best for the next chapter.”

Peyper made his Test debut when he took charge of the match between Kenya and Zimbabwe in July 2011, and his last Test was the World Cup 2023 quarterfinal between Wales and Argentina in Marseille on 15 October.

He refereed 14 matches across three World Cups (2015-23), with Japan 2019 quarterfinal between Wales and France his 50th Test in the middle.

Peyper said that rugby was part of his DNA and that he was privileged to have spent so many years involved in the game.

“I literally grew up next to the rugby field as my dad was a coach, and later on I played and coached the game before I took up the opportunity to go into refereeing,” said Peyper.

“There are always tough times at high end refereeing, but since making my first-class debut 17 years ago, rugby has only been good to me.

“It’s been a great journey, I have made many wonderful friends and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit many fantastic places around the world.

“All things considered, now is perhaps the best time to step away from active refereeing to spend more time with my lovely wife and two beautiful daughters, as well as my growing business interests.

“There are many people I would like to thank and will do so personally, but I want to give a special word of thanks the CEOs of SA Rugby for backing me, the support I’ve received from the High-Performance division, my fellow match officials and specifically the Springboks, whom I’ve worked with closely and who have helped me become a better referee.

“Rugby is part of my life and although I’m closing the door on active refereeing, I would love nothing more than to stay involved in this wonderful game, and plough back after what it’s given me.”

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